While NRL clubs were busy handing our largess to young players, the NRL community was rocked by Sam Warburton’s announcement that he is retiring from rugby following neck and knee surgery.
Warburton is 29 years of age and has spent playing time at Cardiff, with Wales and the Lions.
He last played as the captain of the Lions’ side that earned a draw in the third Test against New Zealand last summer.
He had been training, but apparently saw no positive future prospects.
He told Sky Sports, “Unfortunately, after a long period of rest and rehabilitation, the decision to retire from rugby has been made with my health and wellbeing as a priority. My body is unable to give me back what I had hoped for on my return to training. I cannot thank the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff Blues enough, who have gone beyond the call of duty in providing the support I received to help me get back on the field, for which I will be forever grateful.”
Warburton’s place in history is assured. He will be remembered as one of the most successful captains for the British and Irish Lions of all time.
He was the captain when the Lions won their first Test victory in nearly two decades when his side beat the Wallabies in 2013, but he may well be remembered most for the series draw the British and Irish Lions managed against the world champion New Zealand All Blacks last year.
He leaves the game of rugby with 49 captain’s caps on 49 occasions. He led them to a Grand Slam and served as captain on two World Cup squads.
It is hard to say which body part was the bigger issue, but rugby players absolutely rely on their knees and need strong necks. Warburton can always have the knee replaced, but other than in Gothic horror tales, we know of no one who has undergone neck replacement surgery.